I have two bells on my bike – one is loud and obnoxious, the other is tuneful and lovely (it’s called a Bali Bell, and it looks like something you might hear dinging lightly as you are called to your 4pm meditation class at the Balinese Day Spa Retreat you’ve escaped to…)
I have two bells because the bike came with one and I bought the Bali Bell after seeing one on somebody else’s bike and deciding I had to have one too, even though – at that time – I still didn’t have a bike.
But now I’m really glad I have two bells. The loud and obnoxious one is good for letting people know that I am coming up behind them, and it’s a bit louder and more distinct so I can interrupt their conversation or be heard over their iPod or just give them plenty of warning before I glide up behind them on my otherwise-silent bike.
The tuneful and lovely bell is great when it’s a Sunday afternoon and everyone’s out for a leisurely walk or ride, and I just want to politely alert people to my presence so, again, they don’t get a shock when I suddenly appear out of the blue behind them.
Because nothing is scarier, when you’re out for a leisurely walk or ride, than the sudden, unexpected, unannounced presence of a bicycle flying past you on the path. They are big and fast and have sharp bits that poke out and if you suddenly find one beside you, zooming past with inches to spare, you can be genuinely, totally scared out of your wits. I know that’s what happens to me when I get surprised by a bike, whether I’m walking or on my own bike. Doesn’t matter if t’s an elegant Euro-style cruiser with a basket of flowers on the front and a granny on the squishy, leather saddle or a muscle-bound mountain bike with a muscle-bound teenager standing tall on the pedals or a middle-aged, lycra-clad bloke with wrap-around sunglasses and a signed Tour de France T-shirt… all of these otherwise pretty harmless cyclists will scare the living daylights out of me if they suddenly appear on my right, apparently out of nowhere.
Which is all a long and laboured way of saying PLEASE GET A BELL FOR YOUR BIKE, AND USE IT TO ALERT OTHER FOOTPATH* AND ROAD USERS TO YOUR PRESENCE. THANK YOU.
Here’s a link to the Rules regarding riding on footpaths in Canberra. The short answer is YES, cyclists are allowed to ride on footpaths. And yes, you’re supposed to have a bell or a horn and you are supposed to use it to alert others to your presence. Which, in my book, is just common courtesy.